Hunt Ready for Overeem; Tokoro OK

By Stephen Martinez Jul 19, 2008
While things stateside are getting into full swing, on the other side of the Pacific, it's just warming up for the final round of the Dream lightweight grand prix. Fighters met with the media Saturday to discuss their bouts, recent changes and car accidents.

Mark Hunt (Pictures) seemed to be under the impression that he wouldn’t have an opponent. But a last-minute announcement confirming that Alistair Overeem (Pictures) would be taking the place of “TBA” didn't cause concern for the New Zealand native.

“I feel great,” Hunt said. “That Alistair has stepped up for the fight is good. I'm looking forward to the match. My condition is good. It’s hard to train for a specific person, and we didn't really know, so I just trained hard. I just found out today that I'm fighting. … I think he was on holidays, so it's great. At the end of the day, I'm a pro fighter.”

Hunt had been originally slated to fight Jerome LeBanner (Pictures), but the match was nixed due to a knee injury sustained by the Frenchman. LeBanner’s replacement offers a significantly different challenge. Of particular concern is the fact that Overeem’s submissions are now a distinct possibility.

“Yeah, well, the guillotine,” Hunt said. “I've seen a couple of Alistair’s fights. He's got a guillotine, but every tough fighter has something good.

“I've been doing a lot of jiu-jitsu and wrestling in the mornings, and at night I'm doing my striking. I'm just trying to learn it all. It's a lot to learn. I'm trying to get used to submissions that wrestlers and jiu-jitsu fellas are looking for and stuff like that.

“I'm training at my gym. I have just been training with local guys. Some of the guys are pretty good, and they help me out. I'm trying to learn what to look out for submission-wise and start working from there. I know a few submissions myself, but I haven't been able to get anything.”

After more than a year off from competition, Hunt made an unsuccessful return April 14 against K-1 super heavyweight ace and three-time world grand prix champ Semmy Schilt (Pictures). Hunt made it clear that his return to K-1 kickboxing was only temporary and that his focus will be on the more mixed of the two arts.

“MMA is where I'm going,” he said. “The fight with K-1, I just had to deal with it. I had a good opportunity there to fight for the title, which a lot of people don't get and I got it after five years [away from K-1]. So now I'm back on the MMA track. Dream is only new. It's rising. My goal for fighting-wise is to be an MMA champion. That's where I'm going, or at least that's where I hope I am going.”

LeBanner sent a statement via e-mail:

“On June 29th, before K-1, I was offered a fight with Mark Hunt (Pictures). I have lost before against Mark Hunt (Pictures), but it was really exciting to fight him. I was training for this fight and I hurt my knee. Unfortunately my condition cannot allow me to fight. The only thing I can do now is apologize to my fans. What I can do is try to recover, and I would like to offer Mark Hunt (Pictures) the fight again. I would also like to thank Mark's new opponent for taking the fight at the very last minute.”

Hunt bore no hard feelings.

“He fought like a week ago against Schilt,” he said. “There is no way I would take a fight like that. I'm pretty sure he would have had a battle.”

Event Producer Keiichi Sasahara was cautiously optimistic that the pair would be meeting again soon under MMA rules.

“It depends how fast [LeBanner] recovers,” Sasahara said. “We still want to have a fight between Mr. Hunt and Mr. LeBanner. Probably in the very near future. It's going to be a great matchup. I'm looking forward to involving Mirko Cro Cop.”

Hideo Tokoro (Pictures)'s car accident thankfully didn't turn out to be as serious as once feared. Tokoro confirmed Saturday that he will indeed be participating in his scheduled match with Takeshi Yamazaki (Pictures).

“I got an X-ray and I should be OK, I believe,” he said. “I went directly to the hospital after the accident and I was told that I will be OK. I'm OK. I'm not hurting.

“I was waiting at a red light, and suddenly a car hit my car from behind. It was my first car accident. It was at about 20 km per hour. I didn't know what to do. The first thing I did was to make a phone call to ZST. Even before I checked what happened to the car. My first thought was that I was concerned about the fight. I felt all over my body to make sure my body was OK. I thought something had happened in my back, but nothing happened. It's completely OK.

“I don't think the driver recognized me, but the policeman recognized me, so I was kind of embarrassed. He said, ‘You are going to have a fight in a few days, aren't you?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’”

When asked if the accident affected his preparation, Tokoro said he was already gradually decreasing his training.

“The day after the accident, I did a little training to double check some of my techniques,” he said. “In my last fight, I lost weight a long time before the fight date, but now I feel good. A fight is a fight. If it’s going to be exciting, then it's fine.”
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